Repair or replace? Staff assessing work needed at Eel Weir bridge in Keji

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on February 11, 2016

KEJIMKUJIK – Staff at Kejimkujik are still working out just what work will be done on the bridge at Eel Weir and how long it will take.

Theresa Bunbury, acting superintendent at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, says they aren’t even sure at this point if they are replacing the wooden bridge or just repairing it.

“The first part of the project is to carry out a more thorough assessment of the bridge and look at what are the best options,” she said.

In July this year, the federal government announced $2.58 million over the next five years for park infrastructure improvements and conservation at Keji; $1 million of that has been set aside for replacing or repairing two timber bridges; one over the Mersey River at Eel Weir, and the other over the Peskowesk Brook, eight kilometres farther along the same road.

In January, the park announced they would be closing the Eel Weir Road between the Snake Lake parking lot and the Eel Weir bridge starting on June 20.

The park is also closing campsites 23 (at Look Lake) and 28 (at Peskowesk Brook) just in case.

“We closed the two sites most impacted by lack of access through the Eel Weir bridge area,” she said. “If it turns out we can open those areas we will. But we wanted to close them now so people wouldn’t book them and then be disappointed later. We are taking the cautious approach.”

She said if and when the bridge becomes a construction zone, then paddlers will not be able to paddle under the bridge and head down the Mersey towards Loon Lake.

She wasn’t sure about portaging options.

“But questions like these really help me as we work on our plans,” she said.

Bunbury said work at the next bridge will most likely start after they finish at Eel Weir.

“That may not happen this summer,” she said. “But as soon as we know, we will announce that information.”

Bunbury couldn’t say for sure how old the bridges are, only that it appears they were already in place when the area became a park in 1974.

She said the bridges received regular maintenance over the years and have been regularly assessed and inspected but this will be the first significant repair work the park has done on them.

She says the bridges are nearing the end of their life cycle and require repair or replacement to address “structural issues”.

She says the bridges provide access to the southern sector of the park for researchers and staff on ecological monitoring programs, they make it easier for park staff to look after campsites and cabins in that remote part of the park, and the bridge and road are used by hikers and paddlers and cyclists.

Keji funding over next five years

Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site has been allocated  $2.58 million from the federal government for park infrastructure improvements and conservation.

$1,000,000 for replacing the timber bridges over the Mersey River at Eel Weir and over the Peskowesk Brook.

$607,000 to remove invasive European green crab and boost the population of native clams and eel grass at the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct.

$525,000 to assess the former hatchery office building for possible renovation.

$448,000 to keep out invasive fish which threaten native species including Blanding’s turtles, Brook trout and American eels.